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What Inequality Means for Children: a new paper from Young Lives

This Young Lives paper is a contribution to the global thematic consultation Addressing inequalities within the post-2015 development agenda which is being co-organised by UNICEF and UN Women. Failure to fully integrate equality principles is recognised as major limitation of the Millennium Development Goals, and neglect of inequalities has also detracted from the progress made in many areas. The paper draws attention to the many ways that inequality impacts on children’s experience of growing up.


This paper was accepted under the "Addressing Inequalities" Global Thematic Consultation - Call for Proposals for Background Papers, Oct 2012

Understanding how poverty and inequalities impact on children is the major goal of Young Lives. A new paper summarises the key findings so far, with a focus on 8 key messages:

Message 1. Inequalities in children’s development originate in multiple disadvantages, which compound to affect children’s long-term outcomes

Message 2. Inequalities undermine the development of human potential: children from disadvantaged families quickly fall behind

Message 3. In Young Lives countries, gender differences become more significant as children get older, but boys are not always advantaged

Message 4. Early malnutrition has serious, long-term consequences for children’s development, but there is also evidence that some children may recover and ‘catch up’

Message 5. Inequalities open up during middle and later childhood, as children grow up

Message 6. How children feel about themselves and their well-being is both a major indicator of inequality and also a channel for the transmission of poverty

Message 7. Education is regarded by both adults and children as having the potential to transform their lives, but doesn’t always compensate for disadvantage and may reinforce differences between children

Message 8. Social protection programmes can reduce disadvantage, but impacts are often complex, some may be unintended and they may not always benefit children.

This paper concludes that since inequalities are multidimensional, so too must be the response. Equitable growth policies, education and health services, underpinned by effective social protection, all have a role to play.

Young Lives aims to provide evidence-based messages that can support the development of the post-2015 global goals, as well as informing robust local policies and interventions. For more information, visit the Global Consultation website:

Download the paper


Tags: ["child research", "young lives study", "poverty", "development", "inequality", "millennium development goals", "social policies", "public policies", "gender", "girl-child", "child well being"] By University of Oxford, Helen Murray, Martin Woodhead, Paul Dornan, Young Lives, The Open University UK
Published Nov. 20, 2012 12:07 PM - Last modified Apr. 17, 2013 3:17 PM